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Fission mission

education Updated: Mar 14, 2012 11:25 IST
Hindustan Times
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The lowdown
Nuclear engineering is all about the production and application of nuclear energy and the uses of radiation and radioactive materials. Most nuclear engineers design, construct and operate nuclear power plants, which generate electric power. They take care of every stage in the production of nuclear energy – from the processing of nuclear fuels to the disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors. Nuclear science is about studying atomic nuclei and exploiting their energy to serve humankind. It is used in food irradiation, medicine (think cancer treatment), electricity production, space and the industry. A nuclear scientist is a cross between a physicist and an engineer. Though it is an extremely specialised field, the prospects are very bright for enthusiastic young minds. With the discipline evolving, a lot of people are needed who can look at specialised areas like managing nuclear waste, nuclear plant design, nuclear operations, nuclear engineering and ensure nuclear plant safety

An average day of a nuclear scientist
9am: Reach office/research centre
9.30pm: Check mails
10am: Work begins
11am: Run simulation of various processes involved in nuclear reactors
Noon: Run a check on all the safety measures
1pm: Lunch
2pm: Hold discussions with faculty if in research; internal meeting with boss/colleagues to sort problems, other issues
3pm: Oversee power generation work
4pm: Plan next day’s work. If in research, attend weekly lab meeting to sum up the job done in the last seven days
5pm: Attend internal meeting
6pm: Call it a day

The payoff
A fresh nuclear engineering graduate is selected for the post of scientific officer (government) in the pay scale of Rs 15,600 to Rs 39,100 a month with grade pay of Rs 5400. The government pays 20% over and above the government scale exclusively to nuclear scientists. Those posted at nuclear plant sites receive 10% extra pay, and soft loans to buy household items, computer and other things. A fresh nuclear engineering graduate, in the private sector is selected as assistant engineer where the lowest package is about
Rs 5 lakh per annum and the highest about Rs 7 lakh per annum. Pay scale of nuclear engineers abroad is, however, high

* S/he should be passionate about engineering
* Good knowledge about properties of materials is mandatory
* Should have good communication skills
* Good concepts in mathematics and physics
* Basic knowledge of thermal hydraulics, instrumentation, and nuclear physics is desirable

Getting there
Opt for science with physics and maths in Class 12. To get into Delhi University’s MTech programme in nuclear science and technology, you should have a bachelor’s degree with physics for at least two years/ four semesters and maths for at least a year/ two semesters. Plus, you need to clear the Joint Admission test for MSc (JAM). More details at

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) holds an all-India entrance test for an orientation course for engineering graduates and science postgraduates (OCES) as well as a two-year DAE Graduate Fellowship Scheme for engineering graduates and physics post-graduates (DGFS).
More at

Institutes and URLs
* Homi Bhabha National Institute, Mumbai
* IIT, Kanpur
* JNTU, Kakinada
* Delhi University

Pros and cons
* Satisfaction of working in high-tech field and serving humanity
* Chance to get academically updated on all fronts

It is essential that nuclear engineers stay up-to-date with their training and knowledge. Most employers will cover the cost of extra training for their employees to ensure they stay ahead Dr Nitin Kumar Puri, assistant professor, department of applied physics,Delhi Technological University